Food Marketing Institute (FMI) today endorsed new legislation that will support Congress’ original intent on federal restaurant menu labeling by ensuring that regulatory protocols intended for restaurants are not expanded to mainstream grocery stores, thus saving food retailers and their customers from unnecessary regulatory consequences costing in excess of $1 billion.

FMI and its industry partners garnered support for a bill with the intent to reform the “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants,” included as section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that lumps traditional grocery stores with restaurants on menu labeling requirements. The bill, entitled “Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2012,” introduced this afternoon by Representatives John Carter (R-TX), Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and 18 additional co-sponsors alongside industry groups representative of food retailers, demonstrates how the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) misinterpreted the law.

“We support Congressman Carter’s efforts and applaud such a diverse, bipartisan backing of this bill,”  Dya Campos, Texas food retailer H-E-B’s Director of Public Affairs says. “Food retailers have a deep commitment to the health of their customers, but with FDA’s proposed interpretation, we’d be forced to be formulaic with our recipes, which is not what our customers typically expect from among our fresh, in-store-made options.”

Under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and other food labeling laws, more than 95 percent of the foods sold in grocery stores already typically provide nutrition information. The average store in the industry carries about 39,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs), according to FMI’s survey, the US Food Retailing Industry Speaks 2011, and 10 to 15% of those items are non-food items, while it is estimated that 34,000 are food items.

“The financial burdens of extending restaurant menu labeling to supermarkets in such a prescriptive manner are extraordinary,” says Jennifer Hatcher, FMI senior vice president of government and political affairs. “We appreciate this bi-partisan legislative effort that recognizes supermarkets are not restaurants, acknowledging the 95% of supermarket offerings that are labeled with full nutrition facts, not just calories, and we urge FDA to acknowledge the same in their final rule.”

“We thank Congress for their support and ultimately the way in which we meet the needs of our customers. There’s enough economic strain on our customers today, and one more regulation not originally intended to apply to grocery stores could significantly impact our customers and small, grocery-oriented businesses,” Campos says.